What a curiosity is Blood and Chrome, the red-headed stepchild of the Battlestar Galactica universe. Initially intended as a more “action-packed” series following the cerebral Caprica, it failed to impress the brass at Syfy, and ended up as an online release before a perfunctory screening as a stand-along movie. Now that it’s out on Blu-ray, its odd (and frankly justified) status can be viewed at leisure. Hit the jump for the full review.
It’s clear early on that the producers hoped to up the action factor. We pick up in the middle of the first Cylon War, as intelligent machines rebel against their former masters on the Twelve Colonies and an endless battle of extermination follows. Young Viper pilot William Adama (Luke Pasqualino) – who may have a future in the Colonial Fleet – finds himself assigned to the Battlestar Galactica. He’s eager to prove himself and soon gets his chance with a super-secret mission behind enemy lines… one full of treachery, hidden agendas and even a burgeoning romance.
Blood and Chrome sets up the scenario in spectacular fashion, only to lose it all amid easy clichés and stereotyping. We know what kind of man Adama becomes, but we see none of that in his thinly veiled Top Gun incarnation here. There’s no sense of tragedy to him, no chip on his shoulder that drives him on. He’s just a hotshot, something that may have been beaten out of him had the series been picked up, but which shows no sign of development here.
To that, Blood and Chrome adds a story high on spectacle but short on reasons to care. The point-and-shoot dogfights with the Cylons begin with a bang and slowly diminish to a whimper, devoid of any real rooting interest and thrown in mainly to shore up the threadbare storyline. You can spot the usual problems throughout its length – simplistic dramatic relationships, unappealing dialogue, a sense of the routine that never appeared in BSG – but the biggest problem lies in its faux desperation.
Blood and Chrome tries to convey the same backs-against-the-wall suspense as BSG. The Colonies are losing, the Cylons have our number, friends may turn out to be foes, etc. Unfortunately, we already know what’s coming and as grim as things look here, humanity still earns a lengthy reprieve before the real end arrives. By trying to recapture that feeling, Blood and Chrome undermines its ability to create its own identity. Caprica was far from perfect, but its more meditative tone gave us a fresh look at this universe. Intimidated by its predecessor’s failure, Blood and Chrome tries to play it safe to its ultimate detriment. Instead of a brilliant prequel set in an exciting era, we get a glorified highlights reel, emulating what used to work instead of finding its own voice. I understand the need for a more action-packed series, and the money shots here feel spot on. But we can’t get fired up about this hero or his mission, and we don’t see any reason why an extended series would look any different.
That leaves Blood and Chrome left out in the cold. It works well enough as a nostalgia fix, and die-hard fans looking for something new should enjoy it as a stand-along effort. A pity that its unrealized potential looms so large, and that its creators became too paralyzed by Caprica’s shortcomings to avoid the pitfalls of this one.
The Blu-ray release is purely perfunctory, marred by a slightly grainy image though redeemed by sterling sound. Extra features consist of deleted scenes and a lengthy doc on the visual effects: stressing its emphasis on style over substance and conveniently overlooking the script and character problems that ultimately undo it.